Behind The Sports Desk: Tonga's rise in international rugby league

BEHIND THE SPORTS DESK: Is this a new Test era for league?

RUGBY LEAGUE: IT was a sporting spectacle to behold, as almost 30,000 league-hungry fans celebrated a historic moment.

The first meeting of the Australian Kangaroos and Mate Ma'a Tonga.

While the Kangaroos might have come away with a comfortable 34-16 win, the atmosphere and emotion of the clash suggests it was bigger than just a game.

From the spine tingling Sipi Tau to a sea of red supporters sinigng Advance Australia Fair, it was an incredible experience.

But should it become the annual international Test match? Could it take over the Roos against the Kiwis?

Moose and Pottsy head behind the sports desk to find out.

MOOSE ELKERTON: New kid on the block deserves annual opportunity

AUSTRALIA and Tonga put on a rugby league spectacle at the weekend.

It was easily one of the best games of rugby league this year, and to think only two months ago it wasn't going to happen.

You wouldn't have known it was the first meeting of the two nations, with the rivalry and competition on full display to a packed Mt Smart Stadium.

The sheer fact Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland was packed out for this clash speaks volumes - especially considering they could only amass a measly 12,500 the week before for a clash involving the Kangaroos and the Kiwis.

It is a shame this was the first meeting between the two sides considering the level of Polynesian, and especially Tongan players in the NRL.

The atmosphere on the night made it even more incredible, with the Tongan 'Sea of Red' only adding to the spectacle and showing a deep level of respect by singing along to the Australian anthem.

This rivalry is exciting, it is fresh and it is the perfect way to lead rugby league into a new international age.

It would be tough to take away the Anzac Test - because of the long-standing tradition - but this match needs to become an annual event.

The Tongan side was full of big name players, but it also gave an opportunity to uncover the next big things in Tevita Pangai Jr and Addin Fonua-Blake who both had massive games for the Tongan side.

No longer is Tonga just another minnow nation.

(L-R) Captain Boyd Cordner, Josh McGuire and Valentine Holmes of Australia acknowledge the crowd following the Rugby League Test match between the Australia Kangaroos and the Tonga Mate Ma'a at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand, Saturday, October 20, 2018.
(L-R) Captain Boyd Cordner, Josh McGuire and Valentine Holmes of Australia acknowledge the crowd following the Rugby League Test match between the Australia Kangaroos and the Tonga Mate Ma'a at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand, Saturday, October 20, 2018. DAVID ROWLAND/AAP PHOTOS

JARRARD 'POTTSY' POTTER: It can't be a rivalry after only one match

THERE'S no doubting it was a tremendous sight to see a Mt Smart stadium awash with red as Tonga took on Australia in a historic test match, the first time the two countries had played each other in a rugby league test match.

While there's no denying the huge strides Tonga has made towards earning a spot as a Tier-one test nation, to say the match-up could surpass Australia and New Zealand is premature to say the least.

New Zealand rugby league has also come a long way in the past decade or so, with the Kiwis and Kangaroos playing some classic matches in their 100 or so year history.

As the new kid on the block, I believe Tonga has novelty value which adds to the spectacle of their historic appearance. It was the first time Australia and Tonga had met for a test match, so it was natural there would be a strong fan showing. The match was entertaining and played in the right spirit but not enough in my mind to replace the century of rivalry between Australia and New Zealand.

The fact that Tonga's playing roster is boosted by Australian and New Zealander defectors like Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo adds to the competitiveness but again one match into the rivalry between the two countries is not enough for the match-up to take the mantle as the pinnacle of international rugby league. I see the team and their supporters as a benefit to international rugby league in the future, however too much too soon may hurt Tonga rather than help.